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Criminal Nuggets

Aug 28, 2014

A life sentence for a nonviolent drug offender is discussed in Podcast Episode 006 of the Criminal Nuggets Podcast discusses. Is this an example of run-a-muck sentencing or is this justice?…-drug-offender/

Regardless of your personal opinion on life sentences for nonviolent offenses, we should at least be aware that a life sentence for nonviolent drug offender is possible in Illinois for individuals with horrific criminal records. In fact, the law says three class X felonies and you are out.

It is not only murder cases where a life sentence is possible.

The Case

See People v. Fernandez, 2014 IL App (1st) 120508 (07/27/2014).

The defendant in this case had a pretty average drug case:

  • Sold to an undercover officer
  • Deal was video taped
  • Phone calls recorded
  • Defendant handed cop kilo of cocaine
  • Deal was for $31,500

The Law

Under the Habitual Criminal Act, Defendant had to be sentenced to life in prison. That law says that

"Every person who has been twice convicted in any state or federal court of an offense that contains the same elements as an offense now *** classified in Illinois as a Class X felony *** and who is thereafter convicted of a Class X felony *** committed after the 2 prior convictions, shall be adjudged an habitual criminal...Except when the death penalty is imposed, anyone adjudged an habitual criminal shall be sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment."

730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95.

Criminal History Meant 
Life Sentence For Nonviolent Drug Offender

Like, I said he had a horrific criminal history:

  • 1992 Deal to Undercover, Class X amount
  • 1999 Case 800 grams of heroion taped to his stomache
  • 2 prior class X felonies


Tell me what you think. Did he get what he deserved? or Is a life sentence too harsh?